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Surrey council tackles Transit-Oriented Areas, parking

The provincial government requires that these regulations come into force on June 30
Surrey City Hall. (Photo: Anna Burns)

Surrey council approved a city staff report Monday night concerning the designation of so-called Transit-Oriented Areas and related density and height regulations.

The city’s planing and development department and engineering department also put revised residential off-street requirements within the TOAs before council to vote on. Council gave second-reading approval to related bylaws and then set an electronic public hearing for June 10.

The provincial government requires that these regulations come into force on June 30. “The TOAs are areas within 800 metres of a SkyTrain station or 400 metres of a bus exchange within which higher, transit-supportive densities are mandated,” the corporate report explains.

They are categorized into five tiers. Tier One is the area within 200 metres of a SkyTrain station with a minimum allowable height of 20 storeys; Tier Two, from 200 to 400 metres from a SkyTrain station allows for a minimum height of 12 storeys; Tier Three, from 400 to 800 metres from a SkyTrain station comes with a minimum height of eight storeys; Tier Four – up to 200 metres from a bus exchange – has a minimum allowable height of 12 storeys; and Tier Five, from 200 to 400 metres from a bus exchange has a minimum allowable height of eight storeys.

Coun. Mandeep Nagra asked staff what happens when a property lands in two tiers.

“How are we going to deal with that?”

Don Luymes, Surrey’s general manager of planning and development, replied that according to the provincial government such properties would be considered to be in the higher density category. “There’s still some ambiguity around several aspects about that, particularly if there’s subdivision of that property and portions of it fall outside of that, that we’re clarifying with the Province.”

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Transit-Oriented Areas are designated for 12 SkyTrain Stations: Scott Road Station, Gateway Station, Surrey Central Station, King George Station, Green Timbers Station, 152 Street Station, Fleetwood Station, Bakerview-166 Street Station, Hillcrest-184 Street Station, Clayton Station, Willowbrook Station and Columbia Station.

TOA’s are also designated for three bus exchanges: Guildford Mall Exchange, Newton Exchange and Scottsdale Exchange.

City staff also brought before council proposed bylaw amendments aimed at revising residential off-street parking requirements within the TOAs. Provincial legislation now restricts a city’s ability to require residential off-street parking in these areas with the aim of making housing less expensive by reducing the cost of construction. “It is also meant to remove disincentives to using sustainable modes of transportation,” the city report reads. “Municipalities may still require offstreet parking for use by people with disabilities as well as for non-residential uses. With these changes, developers will be relied on to provide sufficient parking based on market demand.”

Mayor Brenda Locke said the issue of no parking limits in the legislation “is concerning.”

Luymes said the idea is that developers will know through their own marketing, “perhaps through the demographic that they are trying to reach with their product what the parking demand would be. I would expect that many of these developments, particularly initially, as this kind of rolls out across the region, would involve traffic analyses by traffic consultants which would inform a developer how much parking they would need to provide for different kinds of units in order to make those units saleable or rent-able.”

If a developer “under-parks” a building with the expectation that the public streets around it will “pick up the slack,” Luymes added, city hall “does have some tools to regulating on-street parking to make sure, whether it’s time limited or whatever, that developers aren’t taking advantage of the public realm to provide parking that they are not willing to provide on their own site.”

Locke said she’s concerned about the time it will take to get the Surrey-Langley SkyTrain expansion going. “We’re going to be building probably before that’s going,” she noted. “I think the parking issue is going to be something we’re going to have to keep our eye on. The legislation doesn’t allow us to do anything about it, but it’s going to be potentially problematic I think.”

About the Author: Tom Zytaruk

I write unvarnished opinion columns and unbiased news reports for the Surrey Now-Leader.
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